Psychological Health at Work

by Dr Christopher C Ridgeway

Some final thoughts

Managing physical health issues is often problematic. Psychological ill health, where there are rarely x-rays, blood reports or other ‘objective’ measures or symptoms, is much more complex and difficult. Managers are therefore advised to

  • Proceed with caution
  • Whenever possible, take professional advice and guidance
  • Remember that whatever actions you take about any member of staff with psychological ill health, other team members will be thinking ‘if it can happen to them, it may happen to me.’ Unless your interventions are positive and considerate, this can have a negative influence on organisational well being
  • Keep up to date with current diagnostics and treatments
  • Don’t be inconsistent in the decisions taken – monitor, audit, evaluate
  • Keep educating/training staff about your policies and procedures
  • Compare your practices and procedures with ‘best practice’ (see the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Institute of Directors, chambers of commerce and so on).
  • When in doubt, don’t make decisions -
  • Review the evidence
  • Consult, consult, consult professionals.

Managers may also need to explore the moral dilemmas in all situations where there could be a conflict between what is best for the company and what is best for the psychologically ill employee. Remember that if you get it wrong, the company could lose money through being taken to tribunal. If you are in any doubt, consult HR or take legal advice before you act.

Remember also that psychologically ill people are often very vulnerable and your employee could totally lose their sanity or could, as a proportion do, lose their lives through suicide. Dilemmas such as these make the management of psychological ill health problematic and challenging.

On the other hand, if you get it right, you will not only be helping the individual concerned, but you will also be enhancing your company’s reputation as a good employer.